Best Vegetarian Chili Recipe

veggie chili next to a batch of vegan cornbread

This vegetarian chili (with an accompanying batch of vegan cornbread) is satisfying, hearty, and so, so comforting.



For the Vegan Cornbread

  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 1 ½ cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups coconut milk (or any other unsweetened non-dairy milk that you love)

For the Beans (Optional)

  • ¾ cup dried beans
  • ½ small yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt

For the Vegetarian Chili

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup of red lentils, dried
  • Cooked black beans (OR 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup mild chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, chopped into 1-inch cubes, for garnish
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped


  1. If you’re using dried black beans, place them in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Set the pot aside to soak for at least 8 hours or up to overnight.
  2. Once the beans are done soaking, drain and rinse them. Then, return them to the pot, add fresh water to cover, and drop in the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and salt. Bring the beans to a low boil over medium heat, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until the beans are tender. Remove from the heat and discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf.
  3. When the beans have about 45 minutes left, preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or round cake pan) with coconut oil (or line with parchment paper).
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, ground flaxseed, and salt. Add the coconut milk and melted coconut oil to the bowl and mix until the batter is smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.
  6. While the cornbread is baking, make the chili. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir to combine, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until fragrant and starting to brown.
  7. To the pot, add the red lentils, black beans, crushed tomatoes, chili powder, ground cumin, salt, and pepper. Fill the empty tomato can with water and pour it into the pot (or just add 3 ½ cups of water), then stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the lentils have swollen and started to pop.
  8. Garnish each bowl of chili with the cubed avocado, cilantro, and cornbread, and enjoy!


Using canned black beans makes this recipe much quicker. If you’re going this route, simply add the drained and rinsed beans into the chili at the same time as you add the lentils.

Keywords: vegetarian chili